Beware. These are addictive. They seem quite innocent, sitting there with their unpretentious looks, but once you grab a few, you’ll be back for more. Perhaps more than you thought you would. Most recipes call for way too much sugar, I used just enough to give a hint of sweetness. They are more about spice. Not too much, though. Honestly, I think they are close to perfection, but feel free to change the proportion of spices, add different ones, and if that’s what rocks your boat, add more sugar. Just make sure to include the egg whites, they offer a natural “glue” for the spice mixture to adhere to the nuts, and a very delicate texture after baking. These keep well at room temperature, so they could turn into excellent gifts for the holidays inside a nice plastic bag with a cute bow. If you are into that sort of thing.
COCKTAIL SPICED NUTS (adapted from several sources)
3 cups nuts of your choice (I used walnuts, cashews, and almonds)
1 Tablespoon water
1 egg white
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon hot curry
Heat oven to 250 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil spray.
Combine all spices in a small bowl. Reserve.
In a large bowl, whisk egg white with water until frothy, season with the teaspoon of salt and mix well. Add the nuts to the bowl, and combine everything well, mixing gently but thoroughly. Try to coat the nuts evenly with the egg white.
Add the sugary and spice mixture. Spread over the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 45 to 60 minutes, moving it around every 15 minutes or so, until fragrant and starting to get golden brown.
Remove from oven, let it cool completely, and break the pieces to serve. I like to transfer it to another baking sheet covered with paper towels so that it cools a bit faster and any excess fat is absorbed by the paper.
Comments: I made two batches of these nuts over the past few weeks. Once in a regular oven, once in the crock pot. Yes, you read that right, in the crock pot. The advantage is simply saving space in the regular oven, which was at a premium over Thanksgiving. So I opted to bake them in the slow-cooker, and there they sat, low and slow. You need to watch them a bit carefully after 45 minutes, because the sugar might start to stick at the bottom and get too dark. Just move them around and it will be fine. If using the crock pot, cook them on high for one hour, reduce to low and cook for another 60 to 90 minutes although they might be ready sooner, depending on the power of your gadget. Once they are ready, spread them on a baking sheet and let them cool completely. That is it. Nice and easy. I am inclined to say I preferred the texture when they cooked in the crock pot, but both methods ended up very similar.
During the holidays, meals tend towards heavy and rich, so I rather skip appetizers like a cheese platter or goodies that involve bread and crackers. These nuts are a good option. A little serving of olives next to them and you are all set. They are so tasty that I notice some guests nibbling on them after dessert on Thanksgiving dinner… If that’s not a great endorsement, I don’t know what would be…
Panettone is a classic bread from Italy, very popular during Christmas festivities. I dare to say that it is almost equally popular in Brazil. Brazilians for the most part need to have the end-of-the-year panettone fix, as if mandatory. Growing up, I would not touch it, picky eater that I was. Crystallized, dried fruit? Me? No, not happening. At some point I opened my horizons a little and would go for a nibble on a small piece. But I was never a big fan, to me it seemed too dry, with a bit of an unpleasant texture. Toasted, with a decent spread of butter, wast the only way to enjoy it. Phil had never tried any until we found ourselves in São Paulo many Decembers ago. He fell deeply in love with it. Over the years he’s also tried other kinds, like those studded with chocolate chips, called “Chocottone” in Brazil. His favorite? The classic version, from Bauducco. Raisins and dried fruits. Not sure what happened this year, but I got an intense desire to bake the version of his dreams. I went the extra mile and got all the necessary toys and gadgets for it. It paid off, big time!
Pre-ferment 6 oz (1 cup) all-purpose flour 8 oz (1 cup) milk
1/4 t instant yeast (regular yeast is fine)
1 cups diced dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, apricots, dates)
1/2 cup candied orange peel
2 cups golden raisins
1/2 cup rum + 1/2 cup water
1 pound (3 cups) all-purpose flour (plus 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup more as necessary)
soaking liquid for fruits
2 oz (1/3 cup) sugar
1/2 t Fiori di Sicilia extract
1 t salt
1 T instant yeast (I used this one which is osmo-tolerant)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened, cut in several pieces
soaked, drained fruits, orange peel
grated zest of one orange
The night before, mix up the preferment with instant yeast. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
The next morning, mix the dried fruits with the rum and water and let soak for 30 minutes.
Make the final dough: drain the fruit, reserving the soaking liquid. Add to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer fitted with the dough hook the pre-ferment, the flour, liquid from the soaked fruits, sugar, eggs, salt and osmo-tolerant yeast. Mix the dough for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter, one by one. Once all the butter is added, continue kneading in the machine for 5 more minutes.
Add the soaked fruits, the candied orange peel and the fresh orange zest and mix gently, adding additional flour as necessary to get it to a proper consistency, so that it is slightly sticky but can be handled by hand.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for two to three hours. If using osmo-tolerant yeast, it might be fully risen by 2 hours.
Split the dough into the necessary number of pieces you need for the loaves you want to make. I used 3/4 of the dough to make a big panettone in the traditional pan (6 in diameter, 6 in high). The rest of the dough I baked in a small springform pan. Shape the dough, place them into the molds, cover lightly and let them rise for two to three hours again. If using osmo-tolerant yeast, they could be ready to bake in 90 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 F.
Bake until nicely browned and the internal temperature registers 185F. My big panettone took 55 minutes to bake, the smaller one, using about 1/4 of the dough, was ready in 25 minutes. A thermometer to check the temperature really helps. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.
Comments: In case you are wondering, there are countless recipes for panettone out there. Using regular yeast, wild yeast, osmo-tolerant yeast, pre-ferment, overnight fermentation in the fridge, you think about one particular condition, and someone has already tried – and formed a strong opinion about it. They all involve a rich dough, containing sugar, milk, butter, and eggs – think in the direction of brioche and you’ll be close. They must include raisins, and orange peel. Sometimes other dried fruits, sometimes almonds. They must all be baked in a tall pan, to form a nice domed structure. And if you want the real authentic flavor, skip the vanilla and go for Fiori di Sicilia. That gives it the real characteristic flavor we all associate with panettone. If you don’t have osmo-tolerant yeast, you can use regular instant. You should then expect longer proofing times, like those specified in the recipe. I suspect I could have used less osmo-tolerant yeast, as the dough rose really fast. Live and learn.
My second, small loaf, made with 1/4 of the dough.
I read a ton of recipes before settling on my version, that joins The Fresh Loaf with some technical advice from America’s Test Kitchen. I enjoyed baking this bread so much and it was so well-received by our colleagues, that I intend to make it again before 2018 says goodbye. Moist, flavorful, sweet but with a sour tang, the smell that lingered in the kitchen after baking was something! Can you tell how happy I am about this bake? I was on top of the world…
I took the panettone all sliced up to the department two days after baking. It was a bit past its prime, but still very tasty. Compliments galore, and by 10am everything was gone. Not even a crumb left. What more could I ask?
Notes to self: if repeating this exact recipe, I will cut the amounts by half. It will make the right amount for the panettone pan I have, which is 6 inches in diameter, 6 inches high.
Two tempting options to try: this version from Paul Hollywood, and this version from my virtual sister Susan. Decisions, decisions…
March, 2003. While living in Paris we took a few days break in Lisbon where we met a couple of great friends from the US who were vacationing in Europe (Sally waves hello to M & V). It was also a trip to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. Portugal, the home country of my maternal grandparents, was a place I had always wanted to visit. The country is charming, people absolutely adorable, and the food? The food does not get the respect and admiration it deserves, in my opinion. As it is mandatory for anyone visiting Lisbon, we stopped by the birth place of Pastéis de Belém, also known as Pastéis de Nata. You can read all about it here.
But first, would you like to say it as a native? let’s try it…
When you bite into your first one, the skies open, angels start singing, and you wonder how would you ever leave Portugal and that indescribable pleasure behind. Yes, they are that wonderful. For almost 15 years I’ve been dreaming of making them at home, even though I am fully aware they would not compare to the original ones. Then I watched an episode of the latest season of The Great British Bake Off, and pastéis de nata were requested as one technical challenge. Sally said to herself… if they can do it, perhaps I could too?
for the dough:
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (227 grams)*** (see my notes)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (1 gram)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water (208 ml)
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature, stirred until smooth
for the custard:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (23 grams)
1 1/4 cups milk (297 ml), divided
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (264 grams)
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup water (158 ml)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (3 ml)
6 large egg yolks, whisked
for the garnish:
Make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds. I needed to add quite a bit more flour than the recipe called for, at least 1/4 cup more, perhaps more.
Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking to your work surface.
Brush the excess flour off the top of the dough, trim any uneven edges, and, using a small offset spatula, dot and then spread the left 2/3 portion of the dough with a little less than 1/3 of the butter being careful to leave a 1 inch plain border around the edge of the dough. Neatly fold the unbuttered right 1/3 of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks) over the rest of the dough. Brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left 1/3 of the dough.
Starting from the top, pat down the dough with your hand to release any air bubbles, and then pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Brush off any excess flour. Turn the dough 90° to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the dough and flour the work surface. Once again roll it out to an 18-inch square, then dot the left 2/3 of the dough with 1/3 of the butter and smear it over the dough. Fold the dough as directed in the previous steps.
For the last rolling, turn the dough 90° to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the dough. Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge of dough closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight.
Make the custard: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup milk until smooth. Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C). Do not stir.
Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture. Remove the cinnamon stick and then pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. The custard will be thin.
Assemble and bake the pastries: Place an oven rack in the top third position and heat the oven to 500°F. Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces. Place 1 piece pastry dough, cut side down, in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.
Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs in the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/16 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom. Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake the pasteis until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow the pasteis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Sprinkle the pasteis generously with confectioners’ sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard.
Comments: I will not lie to you, this is a labor of love. It is time-consuming, and the first time you make it, you’ll feel quite insecure about each step. Did I roll out the pastry thin enough? Is the butter melting too much into the dough? And the insecurities get more intense when it comes time to shape each little shell, because it’s a bit of an unusual process. After rolling the pastry as a long sausage, small bits are cut cross-wise and placed in each mini-muffin tin, like this:
Then, very gently you will push down with the finger right in the center of the cylinder, making the pastry stretch to the sides. Instructions tell you to make the base thicker than the sides. That is easy to understand but not that easy to achieve. Plus, the idea is to work as quickly as possible so the butter won’t melt with the heat of your fingers. If you do it perfectly right, after baking the base of the pastry should show a nice rolling pattern.
Not quite there yet… but I guess not too bad…
The amazing thing is that I did two batches of these Portuguese delicacies, two days in a row. Why? Because I am married to Phil. Puzzled? Let me explain. A dialogue, that happened as we arrived home from work, went more or less like this:
“What are you going to do with all this leftover custard in the fridge?
I have no clue, maybe pour over some fruit? You can have it, by the way…
(A bit of a pause)
Why don’t you make a second batch of pastéis de nata?
(pause due to sheer shock)
Are you totally out of your mind? Do you realize what it takes to make these?
C’mon, it cannot be that bad…
(my reply was not fit to print)
Ok, ok, OK, I get it.. BUT what if I help you? We make it together, how about that?
And that’s how a second batch of Pastéis de Nata was made after work on a weeknight. He did help me, first sitting by the countertop making small conversation as I prepared the dough, and then shaping a batch of shells. He even made a little video while I was working hard with dough and butter. I guess he got bored! 😉 Anyway, here is the mercifully short video.
Even though they turned out very delicious, there is room for improvement. I guess baking them closer to the heat source would be better, ideally you want them all to have the very dark spots I showed you in the first photo. Interestingly enough, those had been baked in my small electric oven, where the tray was placed a lot closer to the top heating element. That’s something to keep in mind if you try them yourself. I also made a small batch with commercial puff pastry, and must admit home-made from scratch turns out a lot better. Something about the way the custard and the shell join in a more homogeneous way. The store-bought puff pastry had a harsher texture. Still, if that’s the only option for you to bake a batch of Pastéis de Nata, go for it. It will still be amazing, I promise. I must stress again the fact that as written, the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria posed me problems. I find that the amount of flour called for has got to be wrong. Maybe it has to do with the brand he’s used, but keep that in mind. You need a dough that you can work comfortably with.
Hard to believe that my first encounter with Pastéis de Nata was almost 15 years ago!
Getting ready to leave for our anniversary dinner, in a restaurant with great seafood and live “fado”, a music that speaks straight to the human soul.
I hope you enjoyed my adventure with this delicacy of my past. I am so glad I finally decided to go for it. Now I need to face another dream of mine, éclairs. Stay tuned!
Another great recipe from Kalyn, who knows her way around a low-carb way of life. If you feel like taking a step back from the excesses of Thanksgiving, this is a very nice option for breakfast, brunch, or a light lunch. I used my beloved tart pan, but you can make it in muffin tins, or even go for a single, larger pie type pan, increasing baking time a little bit.
MINI-FRITTATAS WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE (slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)
2 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets (cut into small, bite-sized pieces) 1 cup grated cheddar cheese 6 T coarsely grated Parmesan cheese 8 eggs 1 cup cottage cheese 1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp oregano salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Heat oven to 375F/190C. Spray tart pan or muffin cups with non-stick spray.
Place the broccoli pieces into a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, or until broccoli just starts to cook. Divide broccoli among the tart wells. Put a generous pinch of cheddar cheese on top of the broccoli, then add coarsely grated Parmesan on top of the cheddar.
Put the cottage cheese into a fine-mesh colander, rinse with cold water, and let drain. Break eggs into a glass measuring cup with a pour spout, and beat with a fork until egg yolks and whites are combined. Add drained cottage cheese, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture over broccoli and cheese, dividing the eggs evenly among the tart wells. Stir gently with the fork so ingredients are evenly distributed.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until eggs are firm and frittatas are starting to get slightly browned on top. Frittatas can be kept in the fridge for several days and microwaved to reheat. Don’t microwave for more than about a minute or the eggs will get rubbery.
. Comments: I absolutely love this type of recipe that I can make in the weekend and then enjoy for lunch the following week. I prefer to warm them up in my little electric oven, because it gives much better texture than the microwave, but if you follow Kalyn’s advice and keep the microwave time short, it will still prevent the dreadful rubbery-egg-syndrome.
Cottage cheese was – for me – an acquired taste. When I first moved to the US, I did not like it at all. But for one reason or another I kept trying it and started to enjoy its unique texture and mild taste. Nowadays I can even eat it straight from a spoon, as long as it is crowned with a little shower of salt and coarsely ground black pepper. A little za’atar would not hurt either. In this preparation, it offers a perfect creamy texture to the frittata.
I love to pair these babies with some juicy tomatoes, but the time for that is unfortunately over…. Must wait for Spring, which obviously cannot come quickly enough for me (sigh).
Have you heard of ebelskivers? With a fun name that twists the tongue around, ebelskivers are creatures conceived in Denmark, designed to make your mouth water and your waistline expand. Think pancakes in round shape, served as a bite-size delicacy. To properly make them, you need a pan like this one.
With that pan calling the Bewitching Kitchen home, I was eager to make my first batch of ebelskivers. The perfect opportunity shaped up: a bunch of golfing friends came to stay with us and play in a tournament with Phil. My plan was to offer them a special breakfast on Sunday morning before they headed to the golf course. But, I kept that plan well hidden. It would be a surprise. Guess who was really surprised? Yours truly. Their performance on the golf course on Saturday made them all want to get up at the crack of dawn and go practice for a couple of hours before the final outing. Breakfast? Who needs breakfast when there’s golf? They grabbed a bunch of cereal bars and off they went. Oh, well. So much for a carefully planned ebelskiver extravaganza…
So I was left with a virgin ebelskiver pan. Then serendipity hit. I was talking to my friend Elaine and she mentioned making falafel in her “special pan.” She had no idea I had the same type of pan! You can check her recent blog post about it with a jump here. It turns out hers is a slightly different version, with a larger number os smaller cavities. Falafel… We both love falafel. My pan would no longer be a virgin.
250g dried chickpeas, placed in a large bowl of water and soaked overnight
1 medium shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
chickpea flour, about 1/4 cup (depending on moisture of your mixture)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Wash and drain the chickpeas.
Put everything except the flour in a food processor and chop to a chunky crumb, then put it all into a large bowl. Add the baking powder and enough flour to bring the mixture together in your hands, then create small balls of the mix and flatten them slightly to make the falafel shape.
Put your ebelskiver pan over a low/medium heat and place a small amount of oil in each dip and allow it to heat up briefly. Place a falafel in each dip and cook until done, moving the pan around to make sure it heats evenly. Turn the falafels gently with a fork when the underside is golden brown, to brown the other side. Remove them to a low oven while you prepare the rest of the meal, or serve right away.
Comments: These turned out delicious! At first I thought that it would make too much filling and I would have a bunch of falafel mixture leftover. Not the case. For my size pan, with the seven medium-sized cavities, it was almost the exact amount. Because my falafels were bigger than Elaine’s, I decided to add a little baking powder to help lift them a little more. After I “fried” them on both sides, I placed them in our small toaster oven just to keep warm while I finished the rest of the meal. Great to have an additional use for this pan, in fact I have a few savory recipes that might cook very well in it. A fun toy to play with, that’s for sure….
I served ours drizzled with a mixture of yogurt and tahini, seasoned with a touch of salt and lemon juice. It was quite tasty, but unfortunately the photo did not do it justice, so I skipped sharing it. Elaine served hers over hummus, her picture is worthy of a cooking magazine. Go check it out…